Dental Delays Jeopardize Kids' Teeth

An Amarillo mother says Medicaid dental delays are putting her children's teeth in jeopardy. 
A shortage is getting in the way of dental care for some of the area's poorest kids.

By the time Erica Stewart could get her son an appointment with a dentist who takes Medicaid, he had six cavities. "I had to wait so long," says Stewart. "They had to put him under and get fixed and so now I'm gonna have to do the same thing with Alexis and it's awful." Alexis is her nine-month-old daughter, but with only two dentists who will see Medicaid patients her age - her appointment is not until next June.

"They tell me, well if you can't wait then there's dentists in Lubbock," says Stewart. "And with you being on Medicaid, you can't afford to go all the way to Lubbock to see a dentist.  It doesn't make sense." So far higher reimbursements have not convinced more dentists to treat Medicaid kids in the Texas panhandle.

The Coalition of Health Services aims to persuade many dentists to each treat a few of the area's almost 30,000 eligible children. "If dentists would just take five.. it really wouldn't have an adverse effect on their existing practice," says Donna Bates, Program Director with the Coalition.

"Just five, just five kids." Stewart says she'd be grateful for any local dentist to sign up. "It would be very nice if there was just one," says Stewart. "Maybe one more dentist in town that would take Medicaid." For now, Stewart like many others, remains on the waiting list.